August 30, 2014

Dunk: Ticats players invigorated by new era in Hamilton

Since 1950 the Tiger-Cats playing on Labour Day has been a time-honoured tradition in the Steel City.

Just twice since the Tigers of the ORFU and Wildcats from the Big Four merged to begin the ‘modern era’ of football in Hamilton has the team played on another day except Monday on the annual September long weekend.

In 1995 the Ticats hosted Baltimore on Saturday, September 2 and last year Hamilton wasn’t even in town. The Tiger-Cats were about as far away as you can get from the ‘Hammer’ in Canada, out in British Columbia to play the Lions on a Friday. Ticats players were likely relaxing and watching football games on Labour Day in 2013. And it seems as though the Ticats are going to be able to restore the institution that is Labour Day football this year and for many to come.

In the days leading up to September 1, 2014 Tim Horton’s Field and its availability has been more closely monitored than the teams starting quarterback Zach Collaros in his return to the field from a concussion. Ticats owner and caretaker Bob Young has said crews will work up until 10:59am Monday, if needed, before gates open at 11am to ensure the stadium is ready. And it appears all parties are on the same page as far as doing whatever is required – working around the clock – to have the structure ready.

Tim Hortons Field is getting closer to opening as each day passes.  The Tiger-Cats are set to open their new home on Monday vs. Toronto.

The Ticats set foot on Tim Horton’s Field for the first time on Wednesday and it instantly brought a fresh burst of energy to the organization. As much as Kent Austin has downplayed the fact that not having a permanent home field hasn’t impacted the performance of his team, you could tell by the smile on his face during his first post-practice meeting with the media that even he is looking forward to getting into the new facility.

Hamilton players were grinning from ear-to-ear talking about the new stadium. Regardless of what the Ticats have said since the start of last season – no one has made any excuses – it’s easy to see how excited the team is about getting to play in their state-of-the-art lair.

If indeed all of the proper documents are signed off on, and the stadium is safe to hold a crowd, there really is no better way to christen a new football field in Hamilton than to host the rival Toronto Argonauts on Labour Day.

The Ticats and Argos have gone head-to-head 43 times on the first Monday of September. Sure, Hamilton’s home field advantage helps, but flat out the team knows how to win on Labour Day over their arch-rivals. All-time the Tiger-Cats are 29-13-1 against the Argonauts on the holiday Monday. No matter the records, it’s always a special day in Ticat-land, one of pride for the residents of Hamilton.

On Monday, September 4, 1950 the first ever Labour Day game was played at Ivor Wynne Stadium. Hamilton grinded out a workman-like 13-6 victory over Toronto. The current bunch of Ticats would like to open Tim Horton’s Field on a proper note as well. It doesn’t matter what the final score is so long as the hometown Hamilton fans can celebrate a win to begin a new era of football in the Steel City.